Lesson 1) Native Tribes of North America

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to History of Magic! It is good to see so many of you back in the History of Magic classroom even after your mandatory studies with me have been completed! Ihope you are all excited to continue exploring the world together. Before we get started, I believe congratulations are in order - you made it! You successfully passed your O.W.L. exams, granted some with flying colors and others by the skin of their teeth, but your dedication to the course is to be commended. 

Not to belittle your success, but we do not have time to waste this year. If you thought our previous years were packed full of history and difficult to keep up with, you are in for a ride from here on out! In Year Six of History of Magic we will be returning to the Western world to focus on the Americas. Yes, I do mean both North America (including Canada if time allows) and South America. It is important for you to note that in previous years, your knowledge of history was primarily confined to a specific geographical region and consisted of rote memorization, though you were exposed to some application in Fifth Year. 

Moving forward, I will not only ask you to learn the information presented, but apply it and draw from your knowledge of the last five years as well. If you did not learn the material before, you had best begin reviewing now. History is a spiderweb in that all aspects of it -- and other subjects -- are heavily connected.

I think we’ve spent enough time on introduction and administrative material. Let us dig into what we will be studying this year! You can find the tentative syllabus below. Please note that lessons marked with an asterisk are subject to change due to the large amount of material we are covering.

Year Six - Magical History of the Americas

Lesson 1: Native Tribes of North America
Lesson 2: European Colonization and the New World
Lesson 3: The Magical Congress of the United States of America
Lesson 4: It's Bigger on the Inside 
Lesson 5:  Magical Education in the Americas
Lesson 6: South American Wizarding Locales
Lesson 7: Major South American Goverments
Lesson 8: Canadian Magical Communities
Lesson 9: Famous Witches and Wizards of the Americas


When many people think of the Americas their mind goes to the exploration of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and the colonization that took place not long after, but not us, as long as you were paying attention in earlier years! In addition to this, it is important to realize that North America had a rich magical culture before Europeans, or even the Norse, ever stepped foot onto the continent. The natives of North America, also known as Native Americans, or indigenous people, had a large variety of magical cultures themselves, and were spread out through the entire continent. I could spend an entire year teaching you about every tribe in the Americas, their cultures, and history, but I have narrowed it down to a few highlighted magical communities spread across the continent. So, without further ado, let us get started.


Northeast Indigenous Tribes

North America’s magical indigenous history can be seen in three geographical areas: the northeast, southeast, and southwest. Though they all participated in magic, the northeast Native American tribes were the most well-known for their magical heritage. In this next portion of the lesson, we will cover three tribes from this region.

Haudenosaunee (Iroquois)

The Haudenosaunee, known as the Iroquois by Europeans, are thought to be the most magically developed native group in North American history. Interestingly enough, this group had a matrilineal social structure through which the women owned all property and determined kinship. Magianthropologists have claimed this structure supports the Hocus Pocus theory, which relied heavily upon women’s persuasion and influence as the first forms of magic. Furthering this belief, the fields were owned by women and tended to under the supervision of the clan mother. It was believed that women had “a magical touch,” but we know they simply had superior herbological skills -- secrets passed down from mother to daughter -- that allowed their fields to flourish even during times of drought or harsh winters. 

If you ask any mundane historian, they will tell you that there were six annual agricultural festivals held by the Haudenosaunee held to pray and give gratitude to the gods for their harvests, however, magianthropologists disagree. It is believed that these aforementioned “secrets'' passed down through the generations were really a series of crop-related charms. Each festival was held for a given charm (affecting planting, growth, production, and enhanced nutrition among others), which would be cast upon each field by the women of the tribe. We do not fully understand how this worked, however, it would have been quite the feat and required a significant amount of willpower to affect every plant in fields hundreds of meters long.

Not only was their knowledge of plants and their uses extensive, the Haudenosaunee were well-versed in potions, though perhaps their accomplishments won’t sound as compelling to a European. This is because they only utilized the ingredients native to their own area. Some of you may remember this concept from your studies in Herbology -- the idea that before travel and transportation was easy and convenient, all had to do with what they had available. Therefore, even the simplest European potions were not something Native Americans were able to create as it requires a horn from a unicorn, which resides in northern Europe. Instead, they had very different recipes, and  many have been lost, sadly.

That said, Native American potion making was a creative art, and what does remain is quite intriguing! Let’s take the Antidote to Common Poisons, for example. First, it is important to note that the types of poisons one might acquire would also be different! But, next, let’s look at ingredients. Naturally, there are substantial similarities despite geographical distance, but the biggest difference was the addition of a horn from the Horned Serpent, rather than from a unicorn, the latter of which was not found in North America. Ah, I could go on all day about interesting ingredients, but as there’s so much left to cover, we must move on.

We turn next to a discussion of the False Face Society, a small magical group composed primarily of female healers, who were tasked with maintaining the health of the Haudenosaunee. Its members were selected at a young age (typically around the age of accidental magic) by the Clan Mother after they experienced a vision or performed random acts of either healing or destruction. Now, understandably, you may be wondering why a destructive act would qualify anyone for healing, but it was believed that the individual was simply being controlled by evil spirits, which could be remedied. And remedied it was! Once children and young adults learned how to control their magic, destructive outbursts like this were no longer a problem and they were able to use their magic to benefit the tribes. 

Similar to those in Africa, the many natives did not use wands and directed their magic in myriad  other ways. I’m sure you’ve discussed no shortage of different types of foci during your time at Hogwarts, but the Haudenosaunee of the False Face Society were quite unique. Once someone joined the society they were required to make a wooden mask from a magical tree. After carving it, coloring it, and adorning it with hair from any number of sources, this mask served as a conduit for the member’s magical power and was specifically used in their complex healing rituals. Of course, the members of the False Face Society were able to perform magic without the mask and did so in their daily lives, but the mask held special importance that is also related to their religion and system of beliefs, and thus, was the only appropriate tool for the occasion.

But magic was not just restricted to small, specialized societies. It also played a role in their political system (a system that made them unique among other indigenous tribes). You see, despite their small numbers, Haudenosaunee warriors defeated enemies twice with their population. One of the reasons for this was the formation of the Iroquois League in 1142, which was created to maintain peace and resolve disputes between all Iroquois tribes. Though many No-Maj consider the origin of this partnership to be a legend, we have slightly more complete records. 

On August 31st of 1142, a meeting was held between the chiefs of the five tribes (Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca) met together with the Mother of Nations (a native  woman who preached peace among their people). The point of said meeting was to introduce Kaineredowa -- also known as the Great Law of Peace -- which stated that the Haudenosaunee should not kill one another. Coincidentally, a solar eclipse occurred on that day. Why is that important, you ask? Magianthropologists believe that a spell similar to the Unbreakable Vow was cast upon all chiefs right after the solar eclipse. This choice was quite significant, as it is believed that the timing was meant to indicate an allegiance to one another at the tribes’ weakest and most vulnerable moment in order to show true trust. You may have heard mention of this in your Divination or Astronomy classes, but at the peak of a full solar eclipse, magic usage becomes more difficult than normal. By timing the vow after such a vulnerable moment, the tribes promised that they would protect one another even at their weakest. The rest, as they say, is history… or, okay, it’s all history, but you know what I mean! Following the formation of the League, the impact of internal conflicts was minimized and the council ruled on disputes, which allowed the Haudenosaunee to grow, conquer, and reduce rival tribal numbers in the northeast. Until the European arrival in the Americas, the Iroquois were one of the strongest forces in North America and feared by fellow indigenous people and outsiders.

Powhatan Tribe

Although the Haudenosaunee were one of the more magical tribes in the northeast, a few Algonquian tribes also had magical origins, including the Powhatan and Croatan tribes. Unfortunately, what little we do know about the Powhatan tribes comes through documentation by European settlers, specifically Aarik Donallen, a wizard that came to America after the discovery of the “New World.” I say “unfortunately” as second-hand accounts, such as those from Mr. Donallen are often biased or full of misunderstandings, so we must be careful when distinguishing culture from preconceived notions.

The Powhatan tribes' reign in northeast America was extensive, though not on the same level as the Haudenosaunee. It is speculated that by the 1700s, the Wahunsunacawh (or chief of the Powhatan) controlled 30 different tribes, though allowing them to maintain their autonomy as individual tribes. Unlike the Iroquois, this led to such a diverse culture that it has been difficult for magical and Muggle historians alike to determine generally applicable rituals or specific cultural characteristics from the blend.

Regardless, I have decided to discuss them with you to remind you that regardless of whether or not a society has a strong magical background, we should avoid solely relying upon magic. After the arrival of the English, many in the Powhatan tribes died from unknown causes. Though they were skilled in the healing arts, no magical or mundane cure was found and the Powhatan people lost half of their population. Enraged by this, Openchancanough, the younger brother of the Wahunsunacawh, decided to attack the English, leading to the capture of John Smith. If any of you have studied No-Maj American history, you probably know of the story of Pocahontas, the daughter of the Wahunsunacawh, who saved Smith’s life. However, despite the allegedly friendly relationship between the pair, and Pocahontas’s intervention preventing all-out war, things did not end well for the Powhatan. The foreign diseases continued to run rampant across the indigenous population and eventually wiped out the majority of their people.

Unlike the Iroquois, this led to such a diverse culture that it has been difficult for magical and Muggle historians alike to determine rituals or specific cultural characteristics from the blend. Regardless, I have decided to discuss them with you to remind you that regardless of whether or not our society has excellent magical practices, we should not be completely reliant upon magic itself. After the arrival of the English, many in the Powhatan tribes died from unknown causes. Though they were skilled in the healing arts, no magical or mundane cure was found and the Powhatan population decreased by half. Enraged by this, Openchancanough, the younger brother of the Wahunsunacawh, decided to attack the English, leading to the capture of John Smith. If any of you have studied No-maj American history, you probably know of the story of Pocahontas, the daughter of the Wahunsunacawh, who saved Smith’s life, but some No-maj and magical historians believe that this tale is not entirely true. Magically speaking, journal recordings from Donallen express a friendly interaction with the Powhatan tribes including trading and teaching, failing to include any significant hatred between the two groups other than the initial capture of John Smith. Despite the allegedly friendly relationship between the European and Powhatan tribes and prevention of war from Pocahontas’s intervention of Smith’s execution, the foreign diseases continued to run rampant across the indigenous population and eventually wiped out the majority of the Powhatan population.

The Croatan Tribe

The Powhatan tribe was not the only one to come across foreign diseases and nearly be wiped out because of it. A group of English settled on an island off the coast of what is now North Carolina and grew for three years, completely unaware of their indigenous neighbors close by who were mysteriously dying in large numbers. Historians believe this frightening rate of death was due to water contamination from the Europeans who introduced diseases and other foreign substances into the water the indigenous people hunted, drank, and bathed in. 

After continued development of the settlement resulted in the near extinction of the tribe, the Croatans made a desperate bid for survival. Those of you that still remember Potions from your First Year know that giving potions to Muggles often results in death… and I think you can see where I’m going with this. Yes, in an effort to save themselves from extinction, the Croatan people, well versed in potions and poisons, put together a collection of brews, which they then secretly distributed into the settlers’ food. In a matter of days, the settlers had died. Unfortunately, these measures were both too late, and did not prevent the extinction of the Croatan tribe. The damage had already been done, and this desperate act simply ensured that both parties met the same end.


Southeast Indigenous Communities

Moving on from such a grisly tale, let us discuss the indigenous people of the southeast now. Unfortunately, we do not know about any specific tribes due to the majority of settlers remaining in the northeast and not moving south until much later. However, thanks to the work of Dr. Frank Speck, a professor of anthropology, we have a small idea of the magical *and No-Maj) culture of those tribes. Similar to the Haudenosaunee tribe, these peoples seemed to have a matrilineal system, which is what organized the division into clans, with the men moving to the clan of the women they married. 

Their primary spiritual system was animism, which is the belief that all objects, places, animals and plants, have an essence or spirit. Though adherence to this belief can be seen more in the southeast, it is important to note that almost all indigenous people have an animistic worldview! Relations with nature in general, including living and nonliving objects were incredibly important. One such example of this is found in the Navajo, who strongly revered the Thunderbird, going so far as to travel across North America to follow and study it. Additional examples include the eagle and jaguar representation of Aztec warriors, all of which you can learn more about in your Ancient Studies class. This animist belief and observations of the wildlife around them is what led to clan names found in the southeastern woodlands such as the bear, beaver, bird, wolf, elk, and fox clans among others. Of course, some of these animals were magical, as well. For example, it is thought that the elk the indigenous people saw were more likely Jackalopes (based upon the comparison of skulls). Due to their location, it is also believed that the wolf clan was based on sightings of the Rougarou, a werewolf-like creature. 

When it came to witches and wizards within these tribes, they would commonly choose clans with creatures associated with their Animagus form to prevent detection and protect themselves in their Animagus form. It made the most sense for the Animagi to join a clan where their form was highly revered and therefore they would not be hunted for food. 

With their closely tied to nature, and our discussion of the False Face Society, it should come as no surprise that the healers of indigenous peoples in this area, more often referred to as medicine men and women, were very important. In the ceremonial context of indigenous communities, “medicine” usually referred to spiritual healing and was a collection of rites and rituals passed down in certain families and not shared outside of those familial bonds. Even now, we find that many indigenous people are less willing to reveal their divinatory and spiritual practices to the wizarding world even though they are very willing to share their herbological knowledge of the land. We understand the importance of this due to remnants of their ritual sites, which were created by forming large mounds on top of which ceremonies could be performed.


Southwest Indigenous Communities

Pueblo Tribe

Many other indigenous peoples from the east, similar to the Haudenosaunee and Powhatan tribes, were not accustomed to remaining in one place. Once the land had been used or there was a lack of game to hunt, they would move to a new area -- often representing a hunter-gatherer mentality. The opposite could be said for some of the southwestern communities, specifically the Puebloans. This group originally created pit houses dug in cliffs during ancient times, and then moved to construct apartment-like structures made of adobe (mud bricks). By 1050, large villages with terraced buildings and numerous houses were constructed on easily defendable sites like ledges of rock or flat summits. One example of this is Pueblo Bonito, a village in the Chaco Canyon of New Mexico that contained approximately 700 rooms and could have housed up to 1000 people.

Obviously, such massive structures were not easy to build and the structures, along with artifacts found within the village, have led magiarchaeologists and anthropologists to believe the Puebloans were a magical community. Whether they were entirely magical or not remains unknown. However, similar to the colossal heads and Great Pyramid of the Olmec, such structures could not be built without the assistance of magic. Other artifacts discovered suggest a magical origin such as pots that depict drawings of what are believed to be Jackalopes and phoenixes, among other non-magical animals. Similar to other tribes, the Pueblo were  also well-versed in herbology, making use of every plant and animal they came across. Having an understanding of the surrounding land also lead the Pueblos to become masters in the art of potion making. They were an experimental people - having set up permanent communities - and took every opportunity to expand their knowledge, leading them to overtake most of the southwestern indigenous trading. While the Haudenosaunee were the leaders in the north, the Pueblo took over that charge in the south.

Obviously, such massive structures were not easy to build and these edifices, along with artifacts found within the village, have led magiarchaeologists and anthropologists to believe the Puebloans had a large magical population. Whether they were entirely magical or not remains unknown. However, similar to the colossal heads and Great Pyramid of the Olmec, such structures could not be built without the assistance of magic. Other artifacts discovered suggest a magical origin such as pots with drawings of jackalopes and phoenixes, alongside other non-magical animals. While their knowledge of magical creatures does not necessarily indicate magical use (after all, there was certainly no Statute of Secrecy among Native Americans in the 9th century), the fact that they were noted is interesting.

Similar to other tribes, the Pueblo were  also well-versed in herbology, making use of every plant and animal they came across. Having an understanding of the surrounding land also led the Pueblos to become masters in the art of potion making. They were an experimental people - having set up permanent communities - and took every opportunity to expand their knowledge, leading them to overtake most of the southwestern indigenous trading. While the Haudenosaunee were the leaders in the north, the Pueblo took over that charge in the south.

Besides their skill in herbology, the culture of the Pueblo also centered on the divinatory arts, with specific focus on divining through prayer and meditation. Prayer sticks were commonly-used foci in regards to the divinatory arts (similar to how jade and obsidian were used in other cultures) and were often composed of wood decorated with beads, fur, and feathers. Interestingly enough, it was discovered that some of the most-used prayer sticks were often composed of jackalope antlers, but whether that was due to the increased magical power from the creature or simply because jackalopes were abundant in the Americas is unknown. Most of the Pueblos held annual sacred ceremonies available to all members of the tribe held in large common areas. It is interesting to note that many of these ceremonies would actually be hosted by children, more specifically, children who had shown magical ability. It was believed at the time that the purity of a child produced a more effective ceremony and a more positive effect upon their tribe. Due to this, children were held very highly in Pueblo society.


Ah, I can see I have run out of time. I am sorry we were only able to cover certain Native American magical communities found within the Americas, but if you have questions, please stop by my office. I would be happy to provide you with additional information! With that, don’t forget to grab your quiz and essay prompt on the desk and have a good week.



Original lesson written by Professor Samuel Becker
Image credits here, here, here, here, here, and here



 

We have made our way around the globe throughout your studies here at Hogwarts, but it is time to return to the home of the Olmec and Maya - the Americas! During your first year of N.E.W.T. studies, we will study North America and South America, looking into the history of the indigenous people of both continents, progression of magical civilization, magical impact in famous wars, the Magical Congress of the United States of America, and South American Ministries as well. Buckle up, it’s going to be a whirlwind of a year!
Course Prerequisites:
  • HOM-OWL

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